Ayana Gray is a New York Times bestselling young adult fantasy author. Her debut novel, Beasts of Prey is being adapted for film by Netflix. The follow-up, Beasts of Ruin, was just released on July 26!
I had the opportunity to ask the author about Beasts of Prey being translated into 10 languages, what she’s most excited to see brought to life on screen from her novel, the writing process, diverse storytelling, and more. Keep reading for everything she shared!
What do you enjoy most about the fantasy genre, whether that’s when you’re writing or reading it?
Ayana Gray: Fantasy has been my favorite genre to read and write for as long as I can remember. I think what I enjoy most about it is the transportive nature of fantasy — the stories can truly take you to new worlds. When I’m reading a fantasy novel, my imagination runs wild, I get to ask “what if?” I have the opportunity to wonder.
Your debut novel, Beasts of Prey, is being translated into 10 languages across five continents, what does that mean to you?
It is mind-blowing to realize that the words I once wrote on my laptop in a little apartment are now going to be translated in languages that make it accessible to readers all over the world. It is a beautiful thing, to connect on such a universal level with so many people through storytelling. I’m also so grateful that, thanks to social media, I’m able to see that connection playing out firsthand by hearing from readers from all corners of the world as they read my books!
It’s also being adapted for film by Netflix. What are you most excited to see brought to life on screen?
I love fantasy adaptations because of the worlds we get to see brought to life on-screen, and I am so incredibly excited to see the storied city of Lkossa and the enchanting Greater Jungle come to life!
The follow-up book, Beasts of Ruin, just came out, what is it like to see the response and know people were waiting for more of your story?
Some people say the first book is the hardest; I’ve come to believe that the second book is actually the hardest. As an author, I’m writing for the first time knowing there are expectations, which can be intimidating. That said, I’ve been so humbled by the excitement and hype, and support for this trilogy. For so long this world and these characters only existed in my brain — it’s a joy to share them.
How do you hope that your work affects those who read it?
I will never be able to repay the authors who wrote the stories that changed my life over the years, but what I hope I can do as an author is pay that favor forward by writing stories that do for other readers what was once done for me. I hope readers — of all ages — are able to find themselves in my books. I hope they’re able to feel seen on some level, and perhaps feel less alone in the world.
Can you talk about the importance of diverse storytelling in literature? I feel like many times, we focus on what we can see, but what we read is just as crucial.
I’m so glad that talks around diversity in media are becoming more commonplace, and I hope that everyone is being asked these questions, regardless of their background. As a Black, able-bodied, cishet woman, I exist on several axes of privilege. I know firsthand what it is like to be inundated with media where you’re never represented, and I know how impacting that is. Subliminally, when you don’t see yourself in stories, it implies that you don’t belong, that there’s no place for you. I think when we create stories wherein everyone has a chance to be represented, we create collective empathy, which is always a positive.
What is your personal favorite part of the writing process? Where do you look for inspiration?
I pull inspiration from just about everything, and not just when I’m actively writing. I pull inspiration from music, film, literature, nature, interactions between myself and others, and interactions between those around me. I also look to history for inspiration, as there is so much wisdom to be learned in looking back at where we’ve come from.
As for my favorite part of the writing process, I really enjoy the revision stage. Drafting on a blank page is difficult for me, but once I have the words down, refining them into something better and better is extremely gratifying.